Larry Foyt: President
Larry Foyt weathered a challenging first year as president of A.J. Foyt Enterprises to emerge stronger and wiser in 2016.
He oversaw the expansion of ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing into a two-car team and the opening of the Foyt Wine Vault, all while managing the renovation of a rental property bought in Speedway, Ind. in 2014.
"There is a great feeling within the team right now, almost a quiet confidence if you will,” said Foyt. “We are building on the foundation we began last year with the expansion to a two-car team. The winter was a perfect chance to strengthen our weak links, and the feeling is that we have done that. Now we want to prove it with the results on track.
“George Klotz has been a fantastic addition as team director and he’s a natural fit within the team,” Foyt continued. “Our drivers are 100% committed--I love how badly they want to win. With Takuma, we are focused on finding that stride we had in 2013; winning Long Beach and taking the points lead into Indianapolis is something we all remember so we know we can do it. Jack is young and fast. I saw him mature a lot last year during an up-and-down season, and his determination and skill will show even better because of the experience. The entire ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team is motivated and ready to go racing!"
There will be three new tracks this year on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule—although two have been past hosts of IndyCar events. Phoenix International Raceway and Road America make a return to the IndyCar schedule while the Boston Grand Prix will be a new event for everyone. The team will have tested at both Phoenix and Road America before those events are held but the Boston Grand Prix is being held on a temporary circuit in the Seaport District.
“We’re looking forward to returning to two of the most historic tracks in the IndyCar Series,” said Foyt. “When the Indy cars tested at Road America last fall, it was my first time there. I was struck by how beautiful it is and how many fans A.J. had in that area--they came to the open test. Phoenix is a great track for the Indy cars, and they will put on a great show there. As for Boston, I think everyone is looking forward to that event.”
In 2015, Foyt spearheaded the expansion of the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team to become a two-car team in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He was quite enthusiastic about the project but also recognized that there were problems.
“A.J. had run multicar teams for plenty of years so it was nothing new for him but for us as a team it had been a while, so it was a big step,” Foyt explained. “There were some growing pains that were a bit stronger than I anticipated. I think expanding and all which that entailed—hiring people, relocating them to Texas and absorbing them into our team culture—plus the task of figuring out the new aero kit designed by Honda, turned out to be quite challenging.”
Added to those challenges was Foyt’s having to oversee the renovation of a 42,000 sq. ft. building in Speedway, Ind. acquired in 2014. Part of the facility has been modified to include Foyt Wine Vault, a Foyt Family Wines tasting room and retail center that houses memorabilia from A.J.’s historic career.
“It’s a big building so we already had a couple tenants, and we’ve leased some space to Takuma’s manager Steve Fusek, who’s using the space for some of his other businesses. So like our race team, it’s become a family affair. Anthony (A.J. Foyt IV) and I opened up the Foyt Wines tasting room which pays homage to A.J. It’s a cool place where fans can see a lot of his history, taste some wines, and just have a good time.”
On the racing front, the last couple of years could be defined as character-building years; the team showed speed consistently but didn’t get the expected results.
Although 2014 and 2015 had highlights—Sato won two poles in 2014 and finished second in the Detroit Grand Prix in 2015—the seasons were not what Foyt expected, especially since all had started so well in 2013.
“It was definitely disappointing when you look at the numbers,” Foyt said. “They don’t do justice to how competitive we were in many races unfortunately.”
In 2013, it quickly became evident that the addition of Sato to the team proved to be a recipe for success. The ex-Formula 1 driver qualified second in the season opener and followed up with a top-10 finish. Two races later, he qualified fourth and won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to become the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race. It was the team’s first visit to victory lane since 2002.
That success did not come without obstacles. A.J.’s passion for the sport rarely saw him miss a race, but in 2013, he missed 11 due to back surgery and a hip replacement. Larry called the shots. With steadfast determination and solid team support, he assumed more responsibility, tackled new challenges and gained valuable experience.
“Taku, our engineers and mechanics all gelled quickly, and getting to victory lane together that year was something we were all very proud of,” Foyt said.
Foyt knows that none of it would be possible without sponsor ABC Supply, who has provided steady support since partnering with AJ Foyt Racing in 2005.
“It’s wonderful having ABC Supply as our sponsor,” Foyt said. “It’s been such an amazing relationship. We’ve become kind of a family together. Their company is one of the biggest ‘small’ companies you’ll ever see. They run their business like a small family business in how they care about and know their employees, yet they are huge and dominate their industry. They’ve been behind us the whole time; they’re a strong partner and a great fit for our race team.”
With Foyt’s increased responsibility came increased power to change the way things were done. By all counts, he’s made a positive impact on the team’s performance since becoming Team Director in the fall of 2006.
“The best part of it all is that A.J. has supported me,” said Foyt. “I spent the first couple years learning, watching a lot and listening too. At the time I came on board, I’d spent the last seven years in the stock cars. It was important see how things were done, analyze and see where we could improve and work to make changes in those areas. By making small changes, it can add up to big results on the track.”
Foyt began his career with the Indy car team as a driver. He competed in three Indianapolis 500s (2004 – 2006) but handling problems resulted in disappointing finishes for the second generation driver.
Prior to his Indy car experience, Foyt spent four years as a driver (and the team’s manager) in the NASCAR Infinity (2001-2002) and Sprint Cup Series (2003-2004) after stints in the American Speed Association and USAC Formula 2000 Series.
As president of A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Foyt knows the challenges ahead of him. Now that he has tasted victory, the challenge is no longer when he’ll win, but how to keep winning.